Kenya’s unemployment rate doubles as 1.7M lose jobs between April and June-KNBS


Kenya’s unemployment rate doubles as 1.7M lose jobs between April and June-KNBS
A woman looks at signs at a store closed due to COVID-19 in Niles, Ill., Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

In Summary

  • According to the just released quarterly labour report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the number of the employed shrunk to 15.9 million Kenyans from a higher 17.8 million Kenyans in March.
  • The steep rise in Kenya’s unemployment rate coincides with the hit of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country which prompted mitigation measures among them travel restriction and the closure of businesses including bars and eateries.
  • The highest proportion of the unemployed has remained between ages 20 and 24 and 25 and 29 with respective unemployment rates of 22.8 and 21.7 per cent.

Kenya’s unemployment rate grew two times between April and June as 1,716,604 Kenyans lost jobs in the period.

According to the just released quarterly labour report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the number of the employed shrunk to 15.9 million Kenyans from a higher 17.8 million Kenyans in March.

Kenya’s unemployment rate now stands at 10.4 per cent from 5.2 per cent in March with the employment to population ratio sliding to 57.7 percent from 64.4 per cent.

The number of the unemployed has grown by 58.6 per cent to 1.8 million Kenyans from 961,666 in the first quarter.

The unemployment picture is however further exacerbated by a rise in the number of the long-term unemployed and individuals outside the labour force which masks the unemployed statistics.

The number of the long-term unemployed defined as individuals with continuous periods of unemployment extending for one year or longer increased by 173,704 to 551563 persons or an effective 3.1 percent.

Meanwhile, the inactive labour force described as persons who did not hold a job during the reference period and did not seek work increased by three percent to 7 million Kenyans over the same period.

The highest proportion of the unemployed has remained between ages 20 and 24 and 25 and 29 with respective unemployment rates of 22.8 and 21.7 per cent.

The steep rise in Kenya’s unemployment rate coincides with the hit of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country which prompted mitigation measures among them travel restriction and the closure of businesses including bars and eateries.

While the government has moved to ease restrictions as it sights control over the global health crisis, some enterprises have folded under the weight of the pandemic while industries in events and planning are yet to re-emerge from past restriction.

The pace and spread of the economic recovery further lies in uncertainty prompting many companies to cuts down costs including staff to stay afloat.

For instance, national carrier Kenya Airways revealed it would send home 1240 of its staff by the end of September as it weights its future under clouds of volatility including a slow recovery in air travel demand.

Other companies to declare redundancies in the period have included retailer Tuskys, the InterContinental Nairobi and the Norfolk Hotel.

During the same period, bank profitability has come under stress from the risk of loan defaults by customers which has seen them set aside billions as borrower profiles becomes more risky in spite of extensions to loan servicing.

The bigger picture of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy is expected to emerge when KNBS published its second quarter GDP print at the end of the month.

Combined, a total of 1,920,443 Kenyans have lost their jobs in the year to date as per the statistician office.

KNBS defines the unemployed as persons who did not have a job in the reference period but actively looked for work and were available for placement.

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Story By Kepha Muiruri
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